In a “first of its kind” ruling, a Boston state court decided on Wednesday that Fontbonne, an all-girls Catholic school, must hire a gay man.
The preparatory school came under criticism when Matthew Barrett was denied the position of Food Service Director after school officials found out he was married to another man. As the newly hired Barrett filed out his employment forms, officials noticed that he listed his ‘husband’ as his emergency contact. The school revoked the job offer.
Superior Court Associate Justice Douglas Wilkins considers this an act of discrimination.
“On the undisputed facts, Barrett has shown he is a protected class, that he was qualified (and even received an offer) for the position of Food Service Director, that he suffered denial of employment, that the reason for the denial was his sexual orientation and that he suffered harm as a result,” wrote the judge. “This proves sexual-orientation discrimination as a matter of law on the undisputed facts.”
Fontbonne argues that the ruling violates the school’s free exercise of religion and right of expressive association. However, the court discovered that Fontbonne fails to meet two of three standards set for such claims. And although the school engages in “at least some form of expression,” the court decided there is “minimal risk” that hiring Barrett would “significantly and seriously burden [Fontbonne’s] expression.” The school’s other defenses – ministerial exception and statutory exemption – were also denied.
National Review magazine was shocked by the judge’s decision. “By that standard, expressive association becomes meaningless. After all, if a court can jam Christian employers with employees who don’t share their values – and then contend that the employers’ rights are protected if they’re still free to complain about it – then the floodgates are open,” wrote the magazine on Friday.
Wilkins argues that with “widespread public awareness of the civil laws allowing same-sex marriage and prohibiting employment discrimination,” there is little risk that the school’s “compliance with civil law will be mistaken for endorsement of same-sex marriage.”
Fontbonne has yet to announce whether or not it will appeal Judge Wilkins’ ruling.